President Donald Trump is facing anger and potential political blowback as his administration ramps up efforts to deport Iraqi Christians, a group he’d pledged to protect from what the U.S. calls a genocide in the Middle East.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents over the weekend detained dozens of Iraqi Christians and others to send back to Iraq. Many of them were picked up in Michigan, a swing state that Trump barely won in 2016 and the home of a sizable number of Christians from Muslim-majority countries who backed Trump during the presidential campaign.
The deportation effort has alarmed lawmakers who have tried to raise awareness about the plight of Chaldean and other Christian communities in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Those communities have struggled to survive under the reign of the Islamic State terrorist group.
Removing the detainees from the United States “represents a death sentence should they be deported to Iraq or Syria,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who has family and religious links to the Middle East, said in a statement.
Christian activists are scrambling to file legal challenges to the deportations and coordinate with sympathetic lawmakers. As the news has spread, so has the feeling that Trump has betrayed the affected Christian community, activists said.
“He promised he would help us, when in fact he’s exacerbated problems now by sending people back to the hands of the Islamic State,” said Steve Oshana, an Assyrian-Christian activist with the group A Demand for Action.
The crackdown is believed to be a result of disputes stemming from Trump’s executive orders that ban visitors and immigrants from several Muslim majority countries.
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SOURCE: Politico, Nahal Toosi